Suns Strokes: Big night from Jackson, Ulis not enough in loss to Boston
PHOENIX — It’s up to even dozen now. And depending on your point of view, that may either be good or bad news for the Phoenix Suns, who dropped their 12th in a row Monday.
Also, the Memphis Grizzlies won.
You can see where this is going, right?
Josh Jackson led four Suns players in double figures, but it was not enough as the Boston Celtics pulled away for a 102-94 victory in front of a sold-out Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Jackson had 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Tyler Ulis, though, may have been the silver lining in what was the Suns’ 11th straight home loss.
Ulis scored a season-high 19 points with eight assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
“He was our best point guard tonight,” interim head coach Jay Triano said.
The Suns (19-56) made it a game.
Trailing by 20, the Suns closed the first half on a 26-9 run to trim the deficit to three, 48-45, at halftime. The comeback was completed when Troy Daniels nailed a 3 to put the Suns in front 53-50 early in the third quarter. The lead, however, was short-lived as the Celtics (51-23) used a 14-3 run to push their advantage back up to double digits, where it remained for much of the second half.
Jayson Tatum went for 23 points and Marcus Morris 20 for a Celtics team—winners now of four straight and five of six overall—that was once again playing without injured starters Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.
The Suns, too, were down a pair of starters. Devin Booker and T.J. Warren did not play.
It was a good thing Jackson came to play, especially in the first quarter. He scored the Suns’ first 11 points and finished with a game-high 12 for the period. He went 4-of-9 from the field, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range, and 3-of-4 from the foul line; while his teammates shot a combined 1-of-12. By the way, it was Alex Len who had that one made field goal, dunking a ball at the 1:21 mark of the period.
Whether by scoring or by passing, Ulis had a hand in 12 of the Suns’ 30 second-quarter points. He scored seven, making 2-of-3 shots from the field, including a 3-pointer, and 3-of-3 from the foul line. He also dished out five assists, two of which set up 3s by Troy Daniels and Davon Reed. His play, along with his teammates, helped the Suns trim a 20-point deficit to three, 48-45, at halftime.
At the 9:17 mark of the second quarter, Alan Williams checked into the game, marking his first appearance of the season. The fans recognized his debut, welcoming him back with a nice round of applause. Williams, who underwent right knee surgery on Sept. 25, finished with three points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field with five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in almost 16 minutes.
At the 9:15 mark of the third quarter, Daniels buried a 3-pointer. It was his fourth straight 3 after missing his first five attempts from deep. More importantly, it gave the Suns the lead, and as it would turn out, their last of the game. Daniels made six 3s (one shy of a season-high) on 14 attempts for a total of 18 points in 36 minutes. He extended his season-long streak scoring in double figures to five straight games.
Of the Celtics’ five first-quarter 3-pointers, two belonged to Rozier. His 3s bookended an 18-2 run which put the visitors up 29-11 at the 1:40 mark of the period. Horford and Morris also hit 3s during the run. They each finished with seven points. It was Tatum, though, who paced the Celtics with nine points, all of which came within a 2:06 stretch near the start of the quarter.
With the game tied at 56, the Celtics went on a 14-3 run. Morris and Rozier each had five points; each hit a 3-pointer. Morris capped the run with a 20-foot jump shot which made it 70-59 Boston at the 1:55 mark. Morris finished the period with a game-high 10 points, making all three of his field goal attempts plus all three of his free-throw attempts; the latter after he was fouled by Daniels with 0.5 seconds remaining.
At least he’s shooting the ball. They’re just not going in. Dragan Bender missed his first six field goal attempts before making a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining in the game. He finished 1-of-7 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range. (He did grab a game-high 10 rebounds.) Overall, Bender is shooting 25.5 percent (13-of-51, including 7-of-35 from 3) over his last seven games.
STAT OF THE GAME
10-of-19: The Suns missed nine free throws, five by Jackson, in a game in which they lost by eight
HE SAID IT
“As soon as we went to the bench I thought our guys off the bench did a really good job for us,” Triano said. “They changed the energy in the game, got up there and pressured, followed the game plan. I thought from that point on we were real good.”
Elfrid Payton was held scoreless (0-of-1 FG) in 15 minutes; it’s the first time as a Sun that he went without a point
Jackson has now scored 15+ points in a career-long seven straight games; it was his 13th 20-point performance
Booker has now missed the Suns’ past five games because of a sprained right hand; he last played on March 15
Warren has now missed the Suns’ past four games because of left knee inflammation; he last played on March 17
Tyson Chandler once again did not play, that’s now seven straight games; he was listed among the Suns inactives
The Celtics swept the season series for the second time in three seasons; they earned their 70th win in the series
For the Celtics, Irving (left knee surgery) and Smart (right thumb surgery) each missed their seventh straight game
The two-game homestand concludes with a visit from the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday, March 28. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Clippers have won seven straight in the series after sweeping all four matchups last season and then winning the first three meetings this season.
Most recently, the Clippers handed the Suns their eighth straight defeat with a 128-117 decision in Phoenix on Feb. 23. The Clippers scored the game’s first 19 points, taking a 19-0 lead with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter, before the Suns got on the board at the 7:09 mark of the period.
Lou Williams had a game-high 35 points, including 23 in the second quarter alone, and Tobias Harris added 30 points and 12 rebounds.